What do a florist, a community nurse and the author of a cookbook all have in common? They can now be found at the Forest Bakehouse, where we visited them on a busy Wednesday morning, deep in dough and preparing pizzas for lunch.
Stepping through the unassuming front door of the small cooperative artisan bakery, we were met with a cornucopia of colourful bakes that looked and smelt irresistible. Sausage rolls, croissants, tarts, sour dough bread, ciabatta, and pizzas were emerging from the ovens at regular intervals. Their success rests on the combination of tasty food and a place people just love to come to.
‘People like coming through the door, they say there is a really nice feel, it makes them want to come back.’
Sitting in the café with coffee and, yes, of course, a pastry, we talked to Chris and Rahel as they worked at the speed of light, multi-tasking yet still finding time to make their customers welcome.
‘You need to concentrate on your customers, introduce new things slowly and do them well.’
They work long hours and have taken on an apprentice, but don’t appear to have lost any of their passion and enthusiasm.
‘Even though every day seems the same, there is so much to do, you have to “read the dough”, there is always a new challenge.’
The team is ‘thrilled to bits’ with the 2016 Taste or Gloucestershire Food and Farming Award. This means working even harder to deal with the increased demand from an ever-growing fan base. Their produce now reaches Birmingham and Abergavenny via the Ross Food Assemble based at the Model Farm in Ross-on-Wye. Their focus is on producing ‘very tasty food and sourcing the best ingredients.’ Chris Hill, Sue Bailey, and Rahel Steffen are planning further developments to cope with the challenge of success, the first of which will be an expansion of the kitchen to enable designated work areas.
They have been coming to the Kempley Produce Market since 2013, and the Market customers are now amongst their most loyal fans. It has been great to witness their success and to see them grow in skill and confidence. Their produce is keenly anticipated by the market on the 2nd Saturday of every month.
We left them cutting up pizzas and making soup for lunch and devising new and tasty bakes. Do
visit them, enjoy coffee and cake and lunch and see them in action – an impressive display of team work.